As the General Assembly and local officials begin the annual budget-making battles, public school officials would be wise to ensure that all stake-holders have a firm grasp on the findings of a September 2015 JLARC report (click here).
According to a report from the Joint Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), three divisions, per-student spending is at least 20 percent lower than in FY 2005: Richmond City, Charles City County, and Covington City. Compared to FY 2009 when per-student spending peaked, all but four school divisions in Virginia now spend less per student in real terms.
The average Virginia school division spends nine percent less per student to provide instruction than it did in FY 2005. The 114 divisions that spent less in FY 2014 than in FY 2005 educate 98 percent of the state’s students. Instructional support services, which include helping teachers provide better instruction, declined by more than direct classroom instruction.
Divisions reduced per-student spending on instruction through a combination of employing fewer teachers per student, limiting salary growth, and requiring teachers to pay a higher percentage of health insurance and retirement benefit costs.
Divisions report that these spending reductions have hindered instructional effectiveness. This conclusion could not be independently validated, but there is support in the research literature that such reductions can negatively impact instructional effectiveness.
Divisions also report that reduced spending per student on instructional support services is creating challenges, such as teachers being less prepared and curriculum not being fully aligned with state standards.
The state could facilitate instructional support in a more efficient manner by rebuilding the Virginia Department of Education’s regional capability to help divisions provide teacher support.